CALHOUN CITY —The Water Valley defense did its best to leave Class 2A Calhoun City’s “Boneyard” with a victory Friday, holding athletic QB J.R. Jennings and the Wildcats in check for most of the night, but in the end it wasn’t enough as the Blue Devils fell 10-7.With 2:25 remaining in the third quarter, Jennings connected with go-to receiver Damarius Howard for a 33-yard touchdown strike that proved to be the game-winner.
Following the game Jennings said he had two other options on the fourth-and-5 play, but when he saw Howard in single coverage he just threw it up and let Howard run under it.
The touchdown was deflating to a Blue Devils defense that held a team that averaged 47.5 points per game heading in to just 10 points and 256 total yards of offense.
As for the Water Valley offense, the Blue Devils drove the length of the field on their next possession, but freshman QB E.J. Bounds came up short on a 24-yard field goal attempt that would have tied the game.
Water Valley would force a punt on CCHS’ next possession and take over with 1:46 remaining in the game from its own 8-yard line, but it was unable to march the ball down the field.
“We have to get better on offense and that’s on me,”WVHS head coach Brad Embry told his players after the loss. “But listen to me, I guarantee we will… I’m not proud of the outcome, but I’m proud of the effort.”
Water Valley running back Kenon Kirkwood gave the Blue Devils an early 7-0 lead, scoring on a 23-yard run with 3:05 remaining in the first quarter.
Five-foot-10, 270-pound offensive lineman Raheem Roberson put Calhoun City on the scoreboard with 9:21 remaining in the first half when he converted a 36-yard field goal.
NEXT UP: The Wildcats won’t have much time to sulk over the loss, as they will have to hit the road to play at J.Z. George on Friday.
NEXT-DAY OBSERVATIONS: By all accounts the WVHS offense needs to improve. The defense has a chance to be one of the best in the Class 3A North, but you still need to score points to win. I say that to say this, I believe it will improve. Bounds is just a freshman, and he has essentially been thrown into the fire at quarterback. The running game looked good for the most part, especially with senior Eric Buckley ripping off chunks of yardage at a time. The problem there is the defense needs Buckley, which means other RBs need to — and have — step up. Torrey Horton has carried the bulk of the load at running back, with Kirkwood, Zenty Allen also getting some runs. All three of those backs are more traditional between-the-tackles runners, while Buckley can — and does — have the ability bounce outside.
Back to the defense for a minute — I asked Jennings what he thought of the “Wrecking Crew” and he simply said, “they hit hard.” Jennings — who was wearing a orange visor, something I’ve never seen before — had trouble throughout the game with QB/C and QB/RB exchanges and lost several fumbles. More often than not, WVHS’ defenders were also able to get into the backfield and cause problems. When Water Valley was having too much success getting pressure on Jennings, the QB was able to connect with Howard throughout the night on short bubble screens.
Another area for improvement with the Blue Devils comes with getting plays called, set up and executed on time. Constantly Embry was having to yell to “RUN THE PLAY.” That comes down to experience with Bounds and should improve as the season progresses.
Junior LB C.J. Jackson led the Blue Devils on defense, earning the Hard Hat Player of the Week award. He graded out at 81 percent according to defensive coordinator Richard Russo and had a team-high 13 total tackles. He also had five tackle for loss, 3 QB hurries, one pass breakup, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. (September 4, 2010)